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I have just returned to London, where I have lived since I was 11. I have been away for four years, living as an ethnic minority in a monocultural part of the world, amassing a host of stories to tell to disbelieving friends. On the whole, I am glad to return. I shan't miss some locals' assumptions that, being a white woman, if I was outside after dark, as I occasionally was, usually to walk the few metres between my house and the church, I must be a prostitute eager to give them a blow job. I shan't miss the abuse my priest husband received: the daubing of "Dirty white dogs" in red paint on the church door, the barrage of stones thrown at him by children shouting "Satan". He was called a "f***ing white bastard" more than once, though, notably, never when in a cassock. I will also not miss the way our garden acted as the local rubbish dump, with items ranging from duvets and TV sets, to rats (dead or twitching) glued to cardboard strips, a popular local method of vermin control to stem the large numbers of them which scuttled between the rubbish piled in gardens and on pavements. Yes, I am very glad to have left Britain's second city.

Brum Deal: Everyday life in Britain's second city (Photograph by Julian Anderson)

For four years, we lived in inner-city Birmingham, in what has been a police no-go area for 20 years. We know that because some plain-clothed cops told us when they asked to use our vicarage as a stake-out to bust drugs rings that pervade the area. Having heard a parishioner's tales of what his neighbours did to him when he was wrongfully suspected of having grassed up a cock-fighting ring, we refused, explaining that we had to live here, they didn't. Even during this time we saw the area change. When we arrived, the population was predominantly Pakistani. Now Somalis are there in equal number. Most of the run-down Irish pubs were turned into mosques during our time. 

As a woman, it was difficult for me to gain many first-hand impressions of the Muslims. I was generally ignored by both men and women, and on the rare occasion that I had to interact, when for example a car was parked illegally and blocking my gate, I was addressed as if inconsequential. My husband, however, faithfully reported conversations which you may find somewhat alarming. One of our favourite dinner-party pieces is this: opposite our vicarage there is a "library" which has some computers, some burkas and occasionally tracts that say offensive things about Jews and Christians. My husband did his photo-copying there, and got on rather well with everybody. One day he was chatting to a man with a passing resemblance to Lawrence of Arabia, who had just arrived from Antwerp — one of an increasing number of Muslims who are arriving here with EU passports. He asked him why he had come to Birmingham. He was surprised at the question: "Everybody know. Birmingham — best place in Europe to be pure Muslim." Well, there must be many places in Europe where Muslims are entirely free to practise their faith, but I suspect there are few places in which they can have so little contact with the civic and legal structure of a Western state if they choose. It seems to be particularly easy to "disappear" if that is their intention. A parishioner once described a lorry pulling up outside his house, the side opening to reveal stacked mattresses full of sleepy, and presumably illegal, immigrants, who staggered out into broad Brummie daylight. We heard tales of how houses are exchanged for cash payments in our area. An untaxed car was once clamped by a frightened-looking official at 8am, but within hours the owner of the vehicle had organised the clamps to be sawn off, and he sped away.

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April 29th, 2012
10:04 PM
I live and work in Brimingham. Have done for many years. I simply don't recognise the city the author "portrays", outside the fantasies of the local far right. I'm amazed any journal with a claim to being taken seriously would publish such garbage. By the way, I'm white and I'm a Christian and get on perfectly well with my Muslim and Sikh neighbours.

Steve Canuck
April 6th, 2012
6:04 PM
It sounds like Birmingham is England’s first unofficial Islamic autonomous region.

January 29th, 2012
5:01 PM
This is clearly describing either the Sparkbrook/Sparkhill or Small Heath area, so why does the article have a picture of a block of flats that is located in the Edgbaston/Highgate area? For someone who claims such a knowledge of inner-city Birmingham, you could have at least got the illustration right.

October 12th, 2011
8:10 PM
Sana writes: "NO Muslim would build a Mosque on a pub. PERIOD!" Strange... a quick google of "pubs converted to mosques" shows several examples, including one from ... the Birmingham Mail. Oh well, you can't get it right all the time, eh Sana

August 4th, 2011
7:08 PM
Well done, this article was almost believable until you blatantly lied about Irish pubs being turned into mosque's! At this point i laughed to myself and thought "is this woman serious?" Once you lie in an article, it completely devalues the whole article and alas that seems to be the case here, NO Muslim would build a Mosque on a pub. PERIOD!

judith sheehan
March 7th, 2011
6:03 AM
Use media compassionately and honestly ( as in the German movie but with a more inclusive theme) to wake people up to the inevitable 'Taliban-style' consequences of the abandoment ('justified' on policitally correct terms) of Christian standards of behaviour. You can't bring people up in a moral vacuum. Clean up the sexually exploitative programming on radio/tv/dvd/internet/on-line media. YOu have to have standards. Start with the family unit. Parents must parent. Parents must have standards of behaviour which their children can follow. Not ' do as I say - BUT - do as I do' . Children are crying out for boundaries. For parents to care enough to establish and maintain boundaries. To communicate at meal time. To invite neighbours over ( of any nationality - but same respectful behavioural standards) . Build community. Start fitness classes/walks/runs.; Book clubs; DVD nights etc., As Mother Teresa said 'start with one' We can make a difference. Don't complain - contribut. Just as your WWII grandparents and great-grandparents and parents did - Start the change from 'a cultural void - back to Christian/or other caring standard - today' The intelligent and caring and democratic and dignified and inclusive English/Christian culture is too good to let slip away without a decent effort at revitalisation. Another major problem is economic security. With a united and focussed society - economic security through jobs growth, will be a natural consequence of harmonious economic growth. We should all be accountable and contribute to a better community and a better society. The world doesn't owe us a living - we're here for only a short time. ONly a short time to contribute to make something worthwhile. Let's get on with it.

History for Dummies
March 7th, 2011
3:03 AM
Perhaps some historical perspective is useful for those inclined to learn from history or recover from politically correct college courses in such, rather than retreat in uninformed denial. For 1400 years or since the death of Muhammad in 632, there has been a relentless jihad against all the nonbelievers of Islam (Christians, agnostics, Hindus, atheists, homosexuals, etc) which persists to this day and includes thousands of Christians fleeing present day Iraq. Prior to the birth of Muhammad, nearly all of the Middle East, Iran, Turkey, et al. were Christian. In just 100 years after Muhammad's death Muslim armies conquered all of North Africa, Iran, et al. and were within 100 miles of Paris itself. If it were not for the eight Crusades, that occurred well afterwards, all of Europe and beyond would now be facing Mecca. The Crusades, limited responses to these copious Islamic assaults, were measures taken in self defense and lasted less than 200 years; motivation for this profuse Islamic aggression comes into focus when one considers that "Islam" in English translates to "submission". Before & after the Crusades, here are just a few of many Muslim offensives that occurred….. Year: 570 Birth of Mohammed, with much of North Africa, Turkey, Persia, el al. Christian. 632 Death of Mohammed 640 Alexandria captured and the great library destroyed 668 First attack to take Constantinople 732 Muslim armies within 100 miles of Paris 846 Muslims plundered the churches of St Peter & Paul in Rome. 996-1021 3,000 Coptic churches in Egypt were destroyed (a 25 year episode) 1009 Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem destroyed. 1091 Muslims drove Christian priests out of Jerusalem. 1095-1291 Time span of the 8 Crusades (a defensive action) 1453 Constantinople conquered (assaults commenced in 668) 1526 Fall of Hungary (one of many on European countries, as noted further down) 1529 Ottoman forces defeated in Vienna. As many are aware, Muslims invaded and occupied Spain for 800 years, here are other countries invaded by Muslim armies with their occupation times… Portugal – 600 years Greece – 500 years Bulgaria 500 years Rumania – 400 years Serbia – 400 years Sicily – 300 years Hungary – 150 years In addition, the Muslims fought in Austria, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Armenia, Poland, Georgia, Ukraine and parts of Russia. The crusaders primarily sought to regain lost territories, whereas the Muslims, even after the Crusades, wanted to occupy Europe in order to Islamize it (as is in progress today with Muslims now living in Europe). For all this, it is notable that in Islam’s theology there is no recognition of repentiveness or forgiveness. Unlike the Bible, the Koran does not instruct its adherents to repent and beg forgiveness, even though it says Allah is “the beneficent, the merciful”. Hence, Muslim or Arab historians, when writing about the Crusades, do not fault Muslims for what their ancestors did before and after the Crusades, or does one find any Muslims making pusillanimous apologies…..only uninformed and naive Christians seem capable of presenting such apologies. A final note: Islam is not merely a religion, but also encompasses a full body of civil law, also known as Shariah, which is imposed on all living within or surviving an Islamic conquest, a serious problem, for all nonbelievers are relegated to 2nd class status and have no right to bear witness in court against any Muslim. Women have only 1/2 the right of men in court. Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women, but Muslim women are forbidden to marry outside their faith. Muslim apostates are condemned to death; joining the Muslim faith is rather similar to joining the Mafia (no apologies for the comparison). From a female perspective, some refer to such a body of law as theocratic misogyny.

March 5th, 2011
2:03 AM
SelbyPost: I don't know where you got the quote you atribute to our Australian PM, Julia Gillard, but I can assure you she did not utter these words, or any others aimed at Muslims wanting to introduce Sharia law into this country. Our politicians are terrorfied of offending people of the Muslim faith because the extremists are very militant and vocal. They will attack police and make accusations of 'racism' against anyone who tries to oppose them. We have been experiencing a daily influx of illegal Muslim immigrants (boat-people) since the current Federal government was elected in 2007. They have no idea how to control the problem and are currently spending millions of dollars to house these people, building refugee centres on the mainland. The big attraction for these refugees is our generous welfare system, which makes them risk their lives trying to get here via Indonesian people smugglers. They have no papers or other forms of identity, but almost invariably, they will be allowed to stay in this country. We are headed down the same track as the British.

March 3rd, 2011
6:03 PM
How can I say this politely? ... I am sorry to have seen, and to continue to hear, of the continued deterioration of life in England. I am sorry for the increased lawlessness, the Godlessness, and the evilness. I am sorry for the cowards and liars who govern the people: the lawmakers and the laws, the teachers and what is taught, the greater media and their euphemisms and biases, the judges and their injustices. I am sorry I could do naught while I was there. And I am sorry for the future, that the present all too well forebodes.

March 2nd, 2011
3:03 PM
Fools ! The British have an anti-culture,anti-society attitude. They don't know that the only thing which makes a society is common culture, layers of meaning and reference that come from common language, history, literature, music and amillion other facets that bond and stimulate individuals. The British are so hateful and political among themselves that they import aliens whose alien culture they encourage, who they then court as political allies against their own. Read "The Economist" article showing research that white British boys are the most deprived, least educated, and most neglected group in the country. What does that say about British family life and social attitudes ? Look at the USA. It is not a "melting pot" but a lowest- common-denominator disaster of competing cultures and crime where no one feels comfortable in his own society. Any idiot can tell you that dumbing-down standards,impoverishing your own culture to kowtow to ungrateful and hateful foreigners in great numbers in your onw country is a recipe for disaster. To pass social engineering laws against recial discrimination, to give preference and affirmative action in favour of those foreigeners is an imbecilic fallacy : the social laws show that racial strife and social problems will inevitably follow. Curious how so many muslims don't seek refugee status in their brother muslim countries, many of whom are rich. They don't care a hoot about Magna Carta and the glorious 2500 year battle of Western civilization for civil society. They are economic migrants who want to take over.

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